Does Breakfast Boost Metabolism?
Good morning, sunshine! Come to chat about whether breakfast boosts the metabolism? Not sure if we should chat over breakfast or if it’s okay to skip it and chat food-free?
Breakfast is a topic as fiercely divisive as the notorious over versus under toilet paper debate (over is the correct method, obviously).
Some folks fall asleep at night dreaming of next morning’s breakfast, while others just can’t stomach food early in the morning.
Among fitness fanatics, breakfast conversations inevitably stray into the territory of science and further devolve into a single question: does breakfast boost metabolism?
We found out, but first, let’s chat about the basics of metabolism.
What is Metabolism?
At the most fundamental level, metabolism refers to the insane amount of chemical processes that occur in your body to keep you alive. Part of that includes how your body converts the food you take in – oatmeal, protein shakes, and the occasional scoop (or three) of ice cream – into energy.
During all these intricate biochemical processes, calories from what you eat are conjoined with oxygen to become the fuel your body needs to function—all things from breathing to pumping your precious blood through your veins, requires energy. Everyone’s expended energy varies–but it’s everyone’s aim to increase their expended energy to boost fat loss. So, does breakfast do this? Well, let’s talk about our own personal energy expenditure first. We know, we know–you’re on the edge of your sit with anticipation for the answer–but don’t go cheating and scroll down–you need to feed your brain before you can fuel results, fit friend.
What is BMR?
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns consistently to function normally–such as doing fantastic things like growing and repairing cells. It is based on your age, weight and gender. So it is specific to you. In addition to the BMR, diet, exercise and even digestion (thermogenesis) contributes to the total number of calories you burn.
In the fitness and nutrition world, we think of increasing our metabolism as a way to get fitter and leaner. The idea is that if we’re able to boost our metabolic rate in some way, we can burn more calories, lose more body fat, and generally become hotter and healthier.
So now that we know about metabolism and BMR, will breakfast get us hotter and healthier?
Does Breakfast Boost Metabolism?
Breakfast literally means to break the “fast” your body has experienced since you last ate and then drifted off into dreamland.
You’ll find Mikey at the gym will bet his house on the fact that breakfast boosts metabolism, and you’ll find Frank the fittest hasn’t eaten breakfast since he was 4 and 1/2 and has the body of a Greek God.
This is pretty much the same situation in science. Studies both support and debunk that breakfast boosts metabolism.
Most of the talk around ‘the most important meal of the day’ is usually anecdotal, and Mikey from the gym will tell you HIS metabolism is through the roof because of this, that, and breakfast.
And….Mikey isn’t wrong: breakfast CAN boost your metabolism via a process known as dietary thermogenesis, or the thermic effect of food. The simple act of eating results in a metabolic boost because your body expends more energy to break down the food, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, it’s a small one, it’s not specific to breakfast, and research shows that it’s primarily influenced by protein. Protein requires the most energy to digest, therefore it burns more calories when eating it.
So does Mikey lose his house on that bet? Well….
There’s a growing body of research related to the efficacy of breakfast, one recent study stands out, and it’s known as the Bath Breakfast Project. This study specifically examined the effects of breakfast on metabolism over a period of six weeks. Despite the popular belief that breakfast boosts metabolism, the researchers didn’t find a significant increase in resting metabolic rate in the participants.
However, other studies found combined health benefits and characteristics of those who consume healthy breakfasts regularly:
- A better nutritional profile.
- Reduced body mass index (BMI).
- Improved cognitive functions.
- Lowered risk for type 2 diabetes.
- Lowered risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Regular eating and exercise patterns.
While there is no direct link to a boosted metabolism, there are definitive links to health benefits, and after all—that’s what the end goal is, isn’t it, fit friend? Because with health, follows fitness and with fitness, follows results.
The biggest issue scientifically to say for certain whether there is a link between metabolism and breakfast is that people don’t have set times they eat. Some may eat dinner at 9pm and eat breakfast at 7am–that’s a 10 hour fast. Where some people may eat dinner at 6pm and eat breakfast at 9am—that’s a 15 hour fast. Those fasting times impact the state the body enters into to generate energy.
Because of these variations, studies have been unable to definitively identify a direct causal benefit to boosted metabolism.
Some studies have found eating earlier the day before is just as beneficial as skipping breakfast because it triggers ketosis and initiates fat oxidation. Other studies concluded skipping breakfast did not result in subjects overcompensating at lunch and as such, reduces overall calorie intake which paves the way for weight loss.
That said, the additional benefits of breakfast cannot be denied, so why deny yourself without trying it first?
If you find that you aren’t hungry in the morning, reflect on how late in the evening you ate your last meal. If it is a little later, bump it up to increase the fasting time and trigger the breakfast burn in the morning.
If you are teetering on total aversion to breakfast but are intrigued enough to see if you will gain the additional benefits mentioned above, try it for a week and see how you feel. Even if you scarf down a banana in the car or drink a protein shake, science says you’ll see some benefits, even if they aren’t an increased metabolism.
In the end, training and fitness are as personal as your body composition, what works for some may not work for others. The key is in discovering what works best for you. And now that your brain got buff on our breakfast blog, go get buff in the gym, fit friend!
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